Love, Truly Love On three mournful, magic books

New City Chicago    |    Ray Pride    |    April 27, 2007

A third in this besorrowed genre is Chicagoan Anders Nilsen's heartbreaking "Don't Go Where I Can't Follow," (D&Q, $17.95) which in its own brief form hits as hard as Didion's masterful recollection of loss. It is a collage, a scrapbook, a memoir; a testament, a legacy, a tragedy, a motley collage and a shattering gem I've returned to several times. The book came unannounced with several other Drawn & Quarterly graphic novels, and it was the most modest-looking in the pile. A milky SX-70 Polaroid on the front--Nilsen putting his cheek up against that of girlfriend Cheryl Weaver while sitting on a couch--another on the back, the flash is terrible, they're kissing in a kitchen. Inside, evidence of travels by the Chicago couple: postcards from Weaver tracking the start of their romance. A twenty-one-page short story the young Nilsen wrote to his sister from camp, reproduced from spiral-bound, ruled pages. More snaps. Stubs of flight passes. Sketchbook jottings. Photos of a shared trip to France, frames largely unpeopled. Notes and sketches about Weaver, by now Nilsen's fiancée, entering the hospital after an abrupt diagnosis. More illustration. Postcards from him to her. Two pages of handwritten illumination of what we've seen. Grave and glorious, life affirming and love affirming, "Don't Go" vibrates in its ungainly form, capturing fleeting time as a shoebox of family pictures might suggest decades of life, a romance stilled suddenly by the worst of adversity, mortal illness. Feelings don't go away. Forster wrote that literature is what happens next. Next is predicated on previous. Raw emotions are transformed by observance and love, into memory and art.

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